§ Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment [16th February] to Main Question [2nd February], "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
"Most Gracious Sovereign,—
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Hardy.)
Which Amendment was—
At the end of the Question, to add the words—'And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that it is highly inexpedient that sanction should be given to any Ordinance permitting the introduction of indentured Chinese labourers into the Transvaal Colony until the approval of the colonists has been formally ascertained.'"—(Mr. Herbert Samuel.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ * MR DUKE (Plymouth)
said that this was a serious question for South Africa no one who had endeavoured to understand South African affairs could doubt. By common consent it had been recognised since the war that the Transvaal had become the centre of the political and social life of South Africa. The Dutch, the predominant race in South Africa before the war, took all their proceedings with that view, and that had been endorsed by the Government in founding the new political fabric to which the Colonial Secretary just now referred in a speech which excited so much interest in the House. The true capital of South Africa was Pretoria: the economic well - being of South Africa seemed to the Dutch and their successors to depend immediately on the prosperity of the Transvaal, and to require for its success the development of its resources as rapidly and completely as possible. The Colonial Secretary described the extraordinary political and 1568 social conditions in that country. A complete modern city founded in the midst of a wilderness, or what was very little less; the centre of the greatest gold producing industry of the world, and of great industries connected with that industry, and an unique centre of wealth, and power; the rest of the Transvaal either in the more fertile parts devoted to the use of pasture or agriculture, or left in the hands of a barbarous population. The right hon. Gentleman had described the difficulty of the task of establishing the institutions of civilisation, and machinery of civilisation, so as to bring the Transvaal as a community into line and on a level with its great industrial centre. The difficulty had not appalled either Lord Milner or those whose material interest lay in South Africa—who had devoted themselves to building up the mining and kindred industries. It need not appal those in Cape, Colony, Natal, and Orange River Colony, or those in our own country, who recognised that the prosperity of the Transvaal, and in the first instance its mining industry, was the keystone of the edifice of the future national greatness of South Africa. The hindrance to the mining industry at present was lack of labour—a shortage of nearly two-thirds. The mine - owners required 164,000 labourers for the existing stamps, and a further 30,000 for development work now necessary; they had only 68,000, and they would not be able to maintain that number because the attraction of the mines was different now to what it was before the war. Then the Kaffir was poor, he was now wealthy and able to indulge his tastes and live upon his own land without labour which he regarded as excessive, and devote himself to those pursuits and pastimes which pleased the native mind. Before the war 40s. and 50s. a month was paid for native labour; 70s. and 80s. a month was now offered, but the labourer did not come. It might be well or ill that that should be so, but if the capital sunk in the mines was to fructify and be redeemed from the soil in which it was sunk, they must deal with the problem of finding labour for the mines in place of the declining Kaffir labour of South Africa. The question had been grappled with. The South Africans had applied themselves to deal with this matter, which affected their 1569 substance and prosperity so much, and to find a solution to the problem.
Two solutions had been proposed besides that now under consideration. One was the old Dutch solution of making the Kaffir work, and he did not think that too much attention in this discussion could well be given to the absolutely frank and candid terms in which the old masters of the South African native had discussed his present position. Their advice—and it was typical of what the masculine mind of the Boer had always regarded as the proper method to be applied to his brother the black—was to break up the locations throughout South Africa and "make the Kaffir work," which meant having a system of forced labour. That a law should be passed to call upon them to work would not make them work. It could only be done by passing a law with the sanction of punishment behind it. If that were, done, so said the Boers, there would be plenty of labour for all the necessities of the Transvaal. The best comment upon that with regard to the attitude of the natives in the South African Colonies was the fact that of the 68,000 labourers at present employed in the mines, 88 per cent. came from Portuguese territory. The meaning of it was that within British territory forced labour did not exist for the native, and it was open to him to please himself, so long as he maintained himself, whether he worked in the mines or not. [Hear, hear!] He presumed by that cheer that hon. Members approved of that state of things. [Hear, hear!] But if they approved of it they must take it with the difficulties it created. They could not applaud the native and graceful indolence of the Kaffir which induced him, instead of hastening to the toil of the mines, to retire from labour and live in leisured ease amongst his wives, and at the same time advise those whose material interest was in the mines that there was an abundant source of native labour in South Africa. What there was, in fact, was 12 per cent. of 68,000 to fill the place of all the Kaffirs in our own colonies who used to recruit the labour in the mines. The Boer policy with regard to the natives might be enforced and they might be dragooned to the mines, but when questions of this kind were discussed it must not be forgotten that to every white man 1570 in South Africa there were six or eight or perhaps ten Kaffirs, and among them means of information and political organisation such as did not exist before the war. He would not dwell further on that alternative policy except to remark that it had been tried and it had failed, The war had made the blacks in South Africa wealthy and they had realised it. It had shown them what was the real bone of contention between the white races and they had realised it. After the war the course which any sane Government had to take with the natives of South Africa was to develop them on peaceful lines and by educational means, and so bring them into the general scheme of civilisation. They would not coerce them into the mines nor would it be the policy of any party in this country to do so. The second alternative policy was that recommended by Mr. Creswell, who recommended that the present native supply should be eked out with the labour of unskilled whites.
§ * MR. DUKE
The hon. Member for Battersea applauded that alternative; would he have the unskilled white and the barbarian from Central Africa pull on the same chain, fill the same barrow, and sit at the same board? Was it part of the hon. Member's scheme of policy that we should bring the white man, our poor brother in a racial sense, and the black man our brother in the ethical sense, together in this way; that they should go down together and prosecute their labour under equal conditions. If that was the view with which hon. Members opposite opposed the Government and supported the policy of Mr. Creswell then he for one would be glad to hear what the trades unions would have to say upon that subject. That was a proposal for the degradation of white labour, and any Englishman who regarded the matter carefully and who considered whether he was ready to take his place side by side and hand in hand with a native lately brought from some remote part of the African Continent, and share his daily life with that man, would at once repel the suggestion that that was a mode in which this question could ever be solved. But efforts had been made to solve the difficulty in that very way. It was not owing to apathy or policy of the mine-owners that mines 1571 were lying idle and that stamps were hung up, it was because there was no labour. Mr. Creswell made his experiment, and practical miners in South Africa were unanimous in the opinion that it was a dead failure, that so far as profit from the mines was concerned the Creswell experiment was absolutely unsatisfactory. The experiment of employing unskilled white labour was also tried in the Rand mines. In order to keep up an average of 400 men during the seventeen months that that was being tried nearly 5,000 men were passed through those mines. Anything less economic could hardly be imagined. It was stated that one of the benefits of the Creswell system was that it would provide for something like continuity of white labour and steady progress, and the result of it had been that in seventeen months 5,000 men had been passed through certain mines in order to ensure an average for those mines of 400 labourers. No one up to this period of the debate had stayed to consider by what kind of white labour it was possible to work the mines. Englishmen had had a chance of going to South Africa for a long while. The Englishmen who went to South Africa would not go there to work for the wages which would maintain a native; to an Englishman those would be starvation wages. He was informed that an offer had been made by a syndicate in the East of Europe to send 25,000 Hungarians to South Africa. Was that the sort of thing for which hon. Gentlemen opposite were striving? Italian labour had been tried in South Africa, with the result that the skilled white British miner did not propose to stay if the class of Italian who could be obtained at the wages the mines could afford to pay was employed. Was it proposed to catch the intelligent labourer in this country, if possible, and to teach him mining in South Africa in three or four months, and so level down the wages of the skilled miner? [An HON. MEMBER: "No"]. The Cornish miner in South Africa knew better. One ground of objection to Mr. Creswell's proposals was that one of his objects was to reduce the wages of miners in South Africa and if practicable to have unskilled labour under the supervision of skilled labour, so that after the unskilled labour saw the 1572 work of the skilled miner for a few months it would be an easier matter to deal with the present high wages of the skilled miner. Was that one of the objects for which hon. Gentlemen opposite were exerting themselves? Those Cornishmen who had transplanted to South Africa the mining industry in which their race had gained aptitude by a thousand years of mining experience, almost unanimously approved of the Labour Ordinance. They could take care and were taking care of their industry by a steadfast opposition to the proposal of Mr. Creswell, which, at present, commended itself most to those Members on the other side of the House who felt when they put what might be an insuperable obstacle in the way of the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to South Africa, that they ought to suggest some sort of alternative. It was not common for them to suggest an alternative on the other side. It was much easier to give vent to highfaluting talk about soldiers' medals and Union Jacks. When they waved the Union Jack for any but a legitimate purpose they had to suffer for it.
§ * MR. DUKE
The suggestion of slavery had reference to the Ordinance. Now the Chinaman had been depicted in the course of the debate as anything but an estimable person, but the Chinaman was good enough to come without any sort of restriction to work in the East End of London. Yet some hon. Members were not willing that with any sort of restriction he should work in South Africa.
§ * MR. DUKE
said the people of the country did not want him in free. When his hon. and gallant friend's comrades in New Zealand, Cape Colony, and other parts of the British Empire found that his hon. friend's keen desire was that the Chinaman should go and stay freely among 1573 them the enthusiasm which he now commanded would be somewhat damped.
* MAJOR SEELY
The objection is that if he is so distasteful to the inhabitants that they will not let him in as a free man —which it is admitted is undesirable—he should not be admitted with modified freedom, which we call modified slavery.
§ MR. DUKE
said his hon. and gallant friend's objection then was to the Chinese race, than whom there was no more industrious, painstaking, long-suffering, honest people, he believed, on the globe. Any man who knew anything of the commercial dealings of Chinese merchants throughout the Far East knew that the word of a Chinese merchant was as good as the bond of any man in London. The standard of commercial integrity among Chinese merchants could not be surpassed. His hon. and gallant friend had so deep-rooted a distaste for a Chinaman that he could not tolerate him in the British dominions. That was not, however, the objection upon which the Amendment was founded. He did not say it was only the political objection or that the defeat of the Government was the only real objective, but his gallant friend had brought himself to think this proposal, like so many other proposals of the Government, must be wrong. The suggestion that the 1574 Chinaman was to flood South Africa was a fallacy, like so many other fallacies scattered abroad in this debate. Of 4¾ millions of Chinese who had emigrated in twenty- five years, upwards of four millions had returned to China. They did not want to settle abroad. The inborn dislike of the European to some Asiatic races justified the Government in imposing upon the Chinese desiring to work in South Africa, some such conditions as those in the Ordinance. He did not believe that any man who declared his true mind on this subject would say that he desired to see South Africa flooded with free Chinese labour and that South Africa should run the risk of becoming a Chinese country. The great necessity of South Africa was labour, and the gold which was to be exported was to be the motive power of the development of the Transvaal—he had almost said the regeneration of South Africa. He did not shrink from considering the position of South Africa. Cape Colony, Natal, and the Transvaal had formed their plans upon the belief that the gold output of South Africa was to continue. It was a mechanical certainty if we permitted it to proceed. The complaint made against the Government by the supporters of the Amendment was that they would not put or continue an absolute barrier against the employment of Chinese. The Government proposed to allow Chinese labour there and to put certain restrictions upon it. Capital was locked up in vast undertakings, and the expenditure of the Transvaal had increased by 100 per cent. for the purpose of developing the country and paying the share of the burden of the war which the colony had to bear. The real question before the House was whether it should declare itself in favour of the present stagnant condition of South Africa, which might bring about a speedy ruin, or whether the Government should be encouraged and assisted in this proposal, which would supply some additional labour to the mines in South Africa, and set free the golden tide which was to renew its prosperity.
§ MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)
said he had given notice of an Amendment to the Amendment now before the House, but after consultation with a number of hon. Members he found the general 1575 opinion was that they should have a clear and distinct issue to vote upon, and that a second Amendment should not be put. He had put down his Amendment to the Amendment for this reason. The Amendment as it stood in the name of his hon. friend seemed to convey an impression that we would tolerate something in regard to slave labour if only it could be approved of or rejected, as the case might be, by a referendum. The Transvaal was a Crown colony, for which the Government of this country was almost, if not quite, as responsible as it was for the affairs of the home land; and what he objected to was to relieve, even in the slightest degree, the Government from the tremendous responsibility which they seemed to be assuming of the introduction of Chinese labour into that colony. He had a strong inclination to persevere with his Amendment, but as he had withdrawn it he would not pursue that part of his subject any further. He had the advantage of listening to the speech of the right hon. Member the Colonial Secretary, who, if he might say so, had made very good use of very rotten materials. The right hon. Gentleman utterly failed to prove his case, or to give a satisfactory reason why this great Assembly, which was the centre of the Empire, should be sitting there at the bidding of the goldmine owners of Johannesburg to do their behest and rake the world through to provide them with cheap labour. To his honour be it said, the right hon. Gentleman particularly failed in that special behest. It would be further noticed that the right hon. Gentleman never once said that the Government approved of, and would fight, for the consummation of the Ordinance agreed to by the mining Parliament in Johannesburg. The nearest he got to it was to apologise for it. In the earliest part of his speech the right hon. Gentleman had assured the House that, if the Chinese came, they would be limited to certain areas, kept in compounds, not allowed to enter into competition with the higher grades of labour, and that they would be, all the time, mere beasts of burden of the lowest type. The right hon. Gentleman combated the suggestion that 300,000 Chinese were wanted. How did he know how many there would be once 1576 the flood-gates were opened? The Government's masters in Johannesburg would decide that, not the Government. They were the governors of Downing Street, and not the men on the Treasury Bench. The Colonial Secretary went on further to show that after all he would pamper the Chinese by bringing comforts into their villages, and by bringing their wives and children. A family averaged three children, and even if they limited the immigration to 100,000 men, that would mean the introduction of 500,000 Chinese into the Transvaal. It was said that if the Chinese escaped from the compound, or were away under permit for more than forty-eight hours, they could be arrested without warrant; but how could they arrest 500,000 people? The whole thing was preposterous and absurd. The Government were asking the House to agree to a proposal, which was being rammed down their throats by the gold-mining companies, for one purpose only—to allow the Chinese to come into South Africa to win gold at a somewhat less cost than they could get it by black or white labour. Once they agreed to that main principle, how were they going to put a limit upon it?
As he understood the Colonial Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman argued that if the Amendment prohibiting Chinese were carried, the resources of the gold authorities would not be exhausted; that if we rejected the Chinese, it did not follow that Britishers would take their place. He pointed out that there was cheap labour in Norway, Sweden, and Italy; but the distinguished Member for Plymouth had added another difficulty to Britons obtaining employment in the Transvaal. There were, he said, the Hungarians. [An HON. MEMBER: And Poles.] Oh the Poles would be reserved for another advocate of this system of slavery; they were not firing all their shots at once. If they were reduced to the Hungarians, little as he sympathised with these slave-masters of Johannesburg, he hoped their bargain with the Hungarian workmen would be much more profitable and satisfactory than the War Office bargain with the Hungarians in regard to horses. There was room for improvement in that direction. The Colonial Secretary wished the House to understand that opinion did not 1577 run all in one channel in the Transvaal. He admitted that there were little differences and contrarieties in that colony; that he had had a petition. Was there a living man who remembered a single bit of history in connection with South Africa during the last seven or eight years, who would pay the slightest attention to any written or signed document coming from that tainted source. They had not forgotten a certain letter that was written and kept in order to be dated to suit the occasion. [Ironical MINISTERIAL laughter.] Yes, they could write letters and pigeon hole them for their own convenience, and it was easily understood that they would not be incapable of faking petitions, and using that gentle influence which was so well known in South Africa, and which had been so potent in many cases, to serve their ends in regard to getting up a petition in favour of Chinese labour. He had read the evidence in the Blue-books, and the Minority Report of the Labour Commission, which was not a Royal Commission at all. It was a sort of Tariff Reform Committee appointed in South Africa in order to vamp up public opinion in favour of cheap labour. There were lots of countries which would like cheap labour; there were lots of people in this country who would like cheap labour, and would not be particular as to the nationality to which it belonged. Were they going to run the risk of bringing shameful degradation on the British Parliament for the sake of aliens. How could they resist or reject appeals made by people nearer their own doors for cheap labour?
Now, in regard to the influence of these great capitalists, he did not object to them because they were foreigners: he did not care whether they were British or foreign—but he objected to them for pursuing methods to enslave black, white, or yellow labourers for the purpose of increasing their gains. He was against them and would oppose them to the best of his ability. What was the condition of things in Johannesburg at the present moment? The capitalists were all supreme, and Lord Milner, to judge from his despatches, seemed to be absolutely in their hands. He was not the High Commissioner of this Empire, sending home information simply stating facts. The whole of the despatches numbered 91 and 92 1578 consisted of special pleading for his clients in Johannesburg; they were not the despatches of a statesman representing a great nation, sending home to his Government information which they ought to be in possession of. Not only was Lord Milner a partisan, but he actually used very thinly veiled threats that, unless the Government agreed to the demand of the gold authorities they would repudiate the financial responsibilities of the Transvaal to this country. He had never read anything more improper in the whole course of his life, and certainly he thought this was a case for severe reprimand. Lord Milner admitted that there was some amount of loyalty in the Transvaal, but he said that if we pressed for the execution of these financial responsibilities we would be straining that loyalty to a degree of danger, and therefore he warned us to give every latitude to these people for their financial convenience. That meant, there was no doubt, for their financial profit. Last week, in order to show the undue influence which the great vested interests had in Johannesburg, he drew the attention of the Colonial Secretary to the delivery by the Post Office in this House, of circulars to Members of the House by some persons evidently interested in the success of the Motion for the importation of Chinese labour. The circular reached him by first post last Thursday morning, and the Blue-books containing Lord Milner's despatches were not in the hands of Members till Friday. A summary of these despatches had been obtained and printed somewhere and circulated to hon. Members.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said that the circulars were neither dated not contained the printer's name, and there was no means whatever of tracing their origin. If hon. Members turned to page 7, and other pages, they would find that the body of the despatches was contained in the circular. Now, who obtained possession of the despatches? Who wrote the despatches at Johannesburg. Did Lord Milner write them, or some secretary of the Mine-owners' Association. It was an outrage on Parliamentary rights and privileges, and he hoped that the Colonial 1579 Secretary would pursue his investigations and get to know who had first access to these very important documents before they reached the Colonial Office, and before they were circulated to the Members of this House. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would stand no nonsense about the financial responsibilities of these millionaires. They could afford to pay. A poor labourer who failed in his public payment of the education rate to the local authority, was summoned before a bench of magistrates and a distress warrant was issued against him unless he paid up. There were plenty of available goods in South Africa to levy upon, if it were necessary, and he hoped it would be done. A few years back, because Venezuela did not pay some paltry debt, owing to he did not know whom, the Government sent battleships to bombard Venezuelan towns. Let them bombard these fellows in Johannesburg. [Laughter.] Well, they could bombard from guns on land as well as from guns at sea, and he would make very short work of these men if they threatened to refuse to fulfil their financial responsibilities.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said that he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman was getting so bright since he left the War Office. The Government were not going to get out of their difficulties in regard to Chinese labour by sheltering under the robe of Canon Scott Holland, nor any other authority. Hon. Members had to give a plain and distinct vote whether they were in favour of cheap yellow labour, whether they were in favour of slavery or in favour of freedom. Long speeches and reading extracts from petitions, and letters from men who had won great honour in the war would not avail on this occasion. They had to come into the open. For the first time in his Parliamentary life, for the first time, perhaps, for many hundreds of years, they had witnessed the advent of a Government which had set up its representative to apologise and explain away the importation of foreigners into a British possession for no other reason than that these would work cheaper than British workmen. The 1580 Government were going to have it straight, and they should avoid all technicalities and stand up to receive their punishment. He and those who agreed with him were going to see who was for freedom and who for slavery. That was the issue they were going on in the division. They were going to discover those who thought it proper at the call or command of the gold authorities in South Africa, to forsake the traditions of our grand old country, of our liberty loving nation, that no slavery, black, white, or yellow, should exist, either for profit or pleasure on any spot of land where the British flag floated.
§ MR. CUST (Southwark, Bermondsey)
said he did not think it would be necessary to say much in answer to the remarks of the hon. Member who had just sat down. He complained of the ex parte nature of Lord Milner's despatches. There was only one point which might be noticed, and that was where the hon. Member declared that the Colonial Office and the Government of this country had never been able to stop the influx of Chinese, and the result would be that they would be doomed to such an influx of Chinese in South Africa as would be entirely beyond their power to control. If it was claimed that the Transvaal was a Crown colony then they could stop this influx. If, on the other hand, the hon. Member claimed that it was a self-governing colony then our responsibility falls from us. As long as they had the present system of government in South Africa, the moment the Chinese become inconvenient their influx could be stopped and their repatriation determined; but the moment they admitted that it was a self-governing colony the stopping of the influx of Chinese and their repatriation depended entirely upon the action of the self-governing colony. It seemed to him that the criticisms which had been made had been simply a rehash of the meeting in St. James' Hall. They were unable to follow the temperate meeting at St. James' Hall closely because of the prudential economy of space exercised by the newspapers in reporting it. They missed in that ungoodly fellowship of prophets a full flow of what Dr. Johnson would have called the anfractuosities of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth. They found strangely 1581 misplaced to-night the inverted intelligence of their hon. and gallant friend the Member for the Isle of Wight which was habitual to him, and they also found the clarion call of the Member for North Camberwell repeated to every man who had fought in South Africa to tear off his medals and trample them in the gutter should this Amendment be rejected. In the House of Lords everybody of authority, from a mining prospectus to the Sermon on the Mount, was quoted by the critics in condemnation of Chinese labour with the exception of the wise and temperate speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury. They had had similar speeches in the House of Commons. There was the speech of the Member for the Isle of Wight, who, like the hon. Member for Oldham and others who belonged to the new school of politicians, was fully prepared to give his faithful support to any Leader who would follow him. His hon. and gallant friend would follow any Leader on either side of the House, and he had availed himself of two opportunities of doing so within the last two days. His hon. and gallant friend had explained what he called the ludicrous nature of some of the statements made by those who favoured the policy of the Government. He told them that the average number of a Chinese family amounted to a wife and three children, but even if that be the case the same argument will apply to the constituency of the Isle of Wight, which was extraordinary of generation. The hon. Member for North Camberwell repeated the story of the soldiers who had fought in South Africa, and he told the soldier to tear off his medals and the badges of his honour and his Sovereign's approbation, and fling them in the gutter. The hon. Member for North Camberwell was one of the leading educationists in the House, and surely he would be better occupied in the ranks of the passive re-sisters than in stimulating mutiny in the ranks of the Army. The hon. and gallant Member complained that the question of the introduction of Asiatic labour was not brought up before the Commission. Of course it was not, because it was not relevant to the reference of that Commission. The whole object of that Commission was to find how far it was 1582 possible to supply the labour needs of the Transvaal from South Africa and Central Africa. The hon. Member complained that the white population of South Africa were coming back to this country, shipload after shipload. That was the Government case, for their object in introducing Chinese labour was to keep the white population in South Africa. The scheme suggested by the Government had been devised to remedy this. The most startling of all the criticisms which had been made was the attack made upon the regulations which allowed materials for religious idols to be sent to the proposed Chinese coolies in South Africa. Do they mean that the Chinese who valued so much their religious observances should not be allowed to worship in their own way in South Africa? Surely it was one of the first principles of the British Empire to give ample facilities to every creed and to every race which existed under the wing of that Empire.
He was not concerned about defending millionaires, but if they were dealing with finance relating to South Africa, let them approach the question in a much larger sense. He would remind the House that the amount of money the millionaires in South Africa might get, was only a very small fraction of the money which the development of the Transvaal would distribute all over the world. The central gold supply of the world lay in South Africa, and consequently not only was the commerce and prosperity of South Africa concerned, but the prosperity of the whole world depended to a considerable extent on the steady supply of that precious metal. If this industry was not developed, not only would the millionaires suffer, but also the shareholders, as well as the labouring population. He believed there were about 100,000 shareholders averaging about £87. If they considered the number of companies waiting to be developed they could gauge the limitation which was now being placed upon our prosperity in South Africa, and though out the world, by this stagnation of the mining trade. This was a much larger question than that which concerned only financiers and bankers, for it embraced the larger basis of the gold supply of the world. He 1583 did not intend to traverse all the ground which had been gone over by the Secretary for the Colonies, for nobody could have more exhaustively covered the general aspect of the question than he did. There was always prejudice against millionaires and against men who had made vast fortunes in a short time. There was always a prejudice against millionaires and foreign shareholders, and there was a very natural prejudice which confused the gamble of the Stock Exchange, which it justly condemned, with the essential interests of a great colony. Then there was the sentiment they had heard so much about to-night in regard to Lord Milner, the Colonial Secretary, and every official and mine-owner in South Africa, who were accused of trying to induce this country to become slave-dealers and do a manifest injustice, in order that some men might pursue their lust for gold. The sentiment consisted of two varieties. First there was the sentiment which attributed to Lord Milner, the Transvaal Government, and, the Colonial Secretary that they were avaricious stock jobbers, and in reality nothing more than organised slave-dealers, seeking to force upon a reluctant white people an equally reluctant body of indentured slaves, and that slavery which was the ruin of nations. The second variety of sentiment was that which objected to Chinese simply because they were Chinese, and must be the undoing of any State except their own. Such sentiments from papers, speeches, and conversations seemed not infrequent. His object was to try to clear away all sentiment and prejudice and to get at the heart of the matter. He would try to show that the real issue was not only one which concerned the future of the black man or the white man, but that it involved not only the future prosperity of the Transvaal but of all South Africa, of England, and even more closely the future of the British Empire as well. He wanted to show that this question was not only one of industrial and economic importance, but it was also of vast political, moral, and Imperial importance.
The shortage of labour in South Africa was universally admitted, and it was no new question. In the year 1835 the Dutch settlers in Cape Colony themselves were 1584 compelled by the shortage of labour to introduce Malays from their Eastern possessions, and to this they owed the variegated and picturesque Malay population of the Cape Peninsula to-day. Natal was compelled to introduce nearly 100,000 Indian coolies to work their mines, simply because she was notable to find a sufficient supply of labour amongst her own inhabitants. In Cape Colony within the last twelve years two committees had been formed by the Cape Colony Government to consider this question, and to look for some source of labour supply outside the Colony. The last committee sat in 1893, and indeed far earlier than that the Cape Colony had petitioned unanimously in favour of the introduction of Chinese labour, and a recommendation to this effect was unanimously passed by the Cape Assembly. Finally, at Bloemfontein in March, 1903, there was held a Conference of the chosen representatives of all the British Colonies in South Africa, and they passed unanimously the following resolution—That this conference, after considering all available statistics, and hearing the reports of the highest official authorities of the several States, has come to the conclusion that the native population of Africa south of the Zambesi does not comprise a sufficient number of adult males capable of work to satisfy the normal rements of the several colonies, and at the same time furnish an adequate amount of labour for the large industrial and mining centres. Under these circumstances it is evident to the conference that the opening of new sources of labour supply is requisite in the interests of all the South African States.The greatest authorities in South Africa upon the labour question were present at that conference, and the result was that the whole conference found, after due consideration, that there was not sufficient labour for the normal requirements of the white people of South Africa. But, Sir, those who were not present at the Bloemfontein Conference appeared to be not satisfied with the result of their deliberation. They said that the members of the conference were prejudiced, and that the information put before them was not sufficient in detail, or sufficiently correct, to warrant their arriving at this decision; and then it was that representatives in the Transvaal of all classes of opinion went to the High Commissioner and begged him to appoint a Commission for thoroughly investigating the labour question, 1585 in order that the world might know once and for all if there really was sufficient labour in South Africa for the requirements of the Transvaal. The Commission commenced its sittings on the 3rd of July last for the purposes of making inquiries as to—What amount of labour is necessary for the requirements of the agricultural, mining, and other industries of the Transvaal, and to ascertain how far it is possible to obtain an adequate supply of labour to meet such requirements from Central and Southern Africa.There were two Reports made by that Commission. Out of the twelve Commissioners ten drew up a Report which was known as the Majority Report, and two drew up a second Report which was known as the Minority Report. The Minority Commission Report was signed only by two members out of the twelve, and they appeared to be the only two gentlemen in the Transvaal, of approved authority, who opposed the present proposal. The new Majority Report laid down four conclusions—
He would deal with the Minority Report later on. They might take it for granted that at least there existed at present an immense shortage of labour in South Africa, despite the important, 1586 desperate, and almost grotesque attempts to obtain it. Take the case of mines alone as the central industry. Native labour alone in 1899 totalled 112,000 as compared with 68,000 to-day. The case of the mines was only one out of many industries, raising this cry for labour, but it was the most urgent. It had been made a reproach that this clamour for labour was confined only to the mine-owners. It had also been said that commerce and agriculture were to be sacrificed in South Africa to the greed of millionaires. The evidence, showed that every interest, every trade, whether of companies or individuals, raised exactly the same demand for more unskilled labour. Unskilled labour was the basis of every industrial trade in the world. This was not in the least a mine-owners' grievance, and South Africa called for labour as a whole. The mines said that the railways had too much, and agriculture said that the mines and railways were ruining them. Commerce declared that it was hopelessly handicapped by the want of labour. The same cry went up all round. On page 92 of the last Blue-book would be found the claims of commerce, from the representative of the Chamber of Commerce; on page 149, that "farmer, grower, servant, everybody," depended on mineral development; on page 106 the bitter complaint of the railways of shortage of labour and of the impossibility of construction; on page 179 the statement of the Chamber of Trade making the same demand; and finally, on page 116, there were chemists, metallurgists, miners, engineers, geologists, doctors, pharmaceutists, architects, accountants, auditors, electricians, surveyors, and even dentists joining in the same demand for a supply of outside labour. In the face of that evidence of a simultaneous cry for the same thing, it was surely idle to suggest, except on the assumption that everybody was a hireling of the mines, that it was only in the interests of the millionaire mine-owners that this increase of labour was demanded. By a majority of ten to two the Commission came to the conclusion that much more labour was needed.
- (1) That the demand for native labour for agriculture in the Transvaal is largely in excess of the present supply, and, as the development of the country proceeds, this demand will greatly increase.
- (2) That the demand for native labour for the Transvaal mining industry is in excess of the present supply by about 129,000 labourers; and, whilst no complete data of the future requirements of the whole industry are obtainable, it is estimated that the mines of the Witwatersrand alone will require, within the next five years, an additional supply of 196,000 labourers.
- (3) That the demand for native labour for other industries, including railways, is greatly in excess of the present supply, and will increase concurrently with the advancement of mining and agriculture.
- (4) That there is no adequate supply of labour in Central and Southern Africa to meet the above requirements.
But it had been asked: "What has been done to find this labour?" Everything had been done and large expenditure incurred in the endeavour to discover new 1587 sources of African labour to meet the demand in the Transvaal.
§ MR. CUST
admitted that wages by a great mistake had been lowered, but they had since been raised to their former level, and in many cases beyond, but the rate of living had increased. Every part of Africa had been ransacked to supply labour to the Transvaal and the British colonies. The mine-owners had gone, not only to every British colony, but also to every German colony, to German East Africa, to German West Africa, Egypt, Congo, Madagascar, Abyssinia, and Somaliland; an enormous amount of money has been spent in the endeavour to get a supply of labour; but in each case the answer was the same, "We cannot spare any labour; we want more ourselves." It had been suggested that the whole of these efforts were a blind and a pretence, that they were merely a means by which the Transvaal millionaire might the more easily slide in the servile labour he desired. Against that imputation of bad faith on the part of the Labour Association, there was the unimpeachable word of Sir Godfrey Lagden, the head of the Native Department, than whom no one knew the native territory better, and than whom no one had rendered better service to the natives of South Africa. Sir Godfrey Lagden had stated that he and his Department were perfectly cognisant of the work of the Labour Association, that they had followed it closely, that they believed it to be genuine, thorough, and unintermittent, and that the agents employed by the Association were perfectly suitable for their work. As a possible means of forcing African labour into the service of the Transvaal, it had been suggested that a certain amount of compulsion, direct or indirect, should be used. Which would the Opposition prefer—compulsion such as the Boers exercised in the old days, or Chinese labour? Then there was the suggestion of a change in the tribal system, and, thirdly, a change of native land tenure. Who, remembering what had happened in the last sixty years with reference to the tribal system and native land tenure, remembering the enormous upset and the 1588 enormous risk which those who dared to attempt to interfere with the most intimate traditional rights of the natives would run, would suggest that any Government would not rather face the possible inconveniences of Asiatic labour than the complete overturn of a country where our nominal servants were in the proportion of ten to one of their masters? As to the Minority Report, it read not so much as a Report on the evidence itself as a hostile criticism of the Majority Report. It took the Majority Report and dealt with it, ignoring, except in one or two favourable instances, the evidence brought before the Commission. Its main points were denied by every other authority. The framers of that Report seemed to deny that there was any hurry, or any need for immediate action, and to suppose that the ideal of 1899, before the war, was quite sufficient to aim at. They combined an unbased but most sanguine optimism as to the future of the Transvaal with an entirely unbased suspicion of the evidence with which they did not agree. Moreover one of the two members who signed it— Mr. Quin—only six months ago was a member of an important deputation to the Government, which desired, as labour was so short, that all railway construction should be put off until a further supply had been obtained.
The result of the shortage of labour had been absolute stagnation in every field of development by which the Transvaal might be made a rich, solvent, and self-supporting State. According to his belief, any further efficient supply of black labour was unattainable. What then were the alternatives? First of all, by far the best alternative would be British white labour if it could be obtained. No one would deny that if they could get prosperous and self-respecting white British labour for the remunerative and the less remunerative parts of Transvaal work all would be satisfied. It was argued that we had done it in Australia, and that it had been done in America. That was perfectly true, but there were two things to be remembered. One was that in America and in Australia they had practically no black population to deal with. The other point was that the ores they were working yielded three, four, or five times as much as the ores obtained 1589 in the Transvaal, and consequently there was that enormous margin to spend on wages. Two experiments in white labour had been tried already in South Africa, one indirectly through the mines, and the other directly through Government employment in the construction of railways. No doubt they were well-intentioned, but they were profoundly unsuccessful. Extracts might be read from various reports of committees of both mine managers and engineers showing the history and the results of those experiments. The details and the figures showed that they were economically impossible and socially most undesirable. Considering the loud cries of earnestness hon. Members opposite had emitted, he thought it was their duty to read very carefully the particulars given in the Blue-book before they made up their minds as to the employment of white labour in South Africa. On this question of the employment of white labour in South Africa, nobody, unless he believed that Lord Milner and every other official, from the highest to the lowest grade, all the experts and the mine-owners, were knaves and liars, could doubt the cumulative evidence embodied in the Blue-book to the effect that British white labour was impossible. And surely the reason was not far to seek. A white man would never work at the same task as the black man. The situation in South Africa was a totally new one in the history of modern civilisation. It was the case of white man's country and white man's climate, where white men could live and breed, but with an enormous and overwhelming preponderance of free black men who would not work. In the Southern States of America the black population were wholly bond and slave. In Australia and in Western America, during 1590 the period of development, the coloured races of both continents were practically non-existent. Both were white man's countries, and in both white worked by the side of white in the highest and the lowest labour. India was not a white man's country, so the question did not there arise. But in South Africa it arose in fierce and fearful reality, and it was upon the treatment of that question that the whole future of South Africa depended.
But the question was asked—If they could not get British white labour why not try white labour from other countries? Let the House consider the results of such an importation. In Natal they had the Indian coolie. Indian coolies could be, to some extent, controlled though their number, their status as British subjects, and their trading capacities and commercial freedom had proved of infinite difficulty in Natal. But in Natal it was laid down that no British subject could have any political privilege in the country to which he had emigrated higher than that which he enjoyed in the country from which he came. But over other white men we should have no control whatever. If they imported 100,000 Hungarians, Bohemians, or what not, they would get them cheap, but they would get them nasty. They would set up a lower standard of living and a lower standard of life, and the British emigrant would be exposed to a competition from which he could not be protected, and which would ultimately ruin him. They could not prevent the white man or quasi-white man getting the franchise, or competing with the British white labourer or white tradesman in every possible way, or lowering the standard of living and the standard of life. It was this class 1591 who introduced corruption into the politics of New York, first into the municipal and then into the national Legislature, and finally by a vagrant and easily purchased vote obtained control of the national Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen, who was not a calumniator of America, speaking of the "poor white trash" introduced into America by this system had said—Shiftless, ignorant, improvident, with no aims in the present nor hope for the future, citizens in nothing but the possession of votes, they were a standing reproach to the system that produced them, and the most convincing proof of its economic as well as its moral failure.Surely the introduction of Chinese labour contains less danger than the infinite national evil suggested by that sentence. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen had disposed of the theory that all labour in the Transvaal could be put into the hands of white men. As to wages in the years 1902–3 the total wages fund in the Transvaal in salaries and wages amounted to £4,700,000. Out of this total the whites received, roughly speaking, £3,500,000, and the blacks £1,250,000; that was to say, the whites received some 70 per cent. of the total wages paid to the workers in the mineral works of the Transvaal,
§ MR. CUST
believed his figures were correct. The facts being as he had stated, what alternative was there but that of the introduction of Chinese? That was the only thing left. One objection to the Chinaman was that he was a Chinaman. That, of Course, he could not help, and he 1592 believed one of the first principles of Liberalism and even of humanity was that no man should be penalised for congenitial defects. It was admitted that he helped to build up California; he undoubtedly did a great deal of pioneering in Australia; and in countries like Borneo, Singapore, and elsewhere, be was found to be invaluable as a servant and labourer. As to the treatment of the Chinese they would be entirely protected in China; they would enlist there; they would go freely; they would know where they were going; they would take their wives and families; and at the end of their time they would be repatriated. As to the Englishmen, the British Consul would be on the spot, and cases of excess or of pressure beyond legitimate limits, would be reported by him to the proper authorities. The opposition to the proposal came largely from prejudice and sentiment. At this time of day, after we had gone through the late war for the sake of South Africa, it was absurd that prejudice and sentiment, and, he ventured to say, cant, should be allowed to stand in the way of a great economical and Imperial necessity.
What other opposition was there? There was the opposition of Cape Colony. Cape Colony was in the throes of a general election, and it was always difficult to guage the real opinion of a community at such a time. But on two occasions, years ago, Cape Colonists themselves petitioned for the importation of Chinese labour. There was then only the opposition of Australia and New Zealand. We valued our colonies, but it was somewhat absurd that New Zealand, with a population about equal to that of a provincial town in England, should dictate the policy of the Empire in this matter. As to the change of opinion in South Africa, if 1593 hon. Members would only read the despatches, addresses, petitions, and the debates in the Legislative Council, they would be able to judge for themselves whether there was not such a thing as a bonâ fide opinion even in South Africa. Lord Milner saw the danger. He had changed his opinion because he knew the real state of things and the impending disaster; he had laid himself open to the charge of inconsistency in order to support what he believed to be the only salvation of the country. If there was any one lesson writ large in our colonial history, written in blood and tears, it was the awful danger of interference with the men on the spot, the men who wanted, the men who knew. In hardly any case of interference by the home Government had the results been satisfactory. Nowhere had that lesson been learnt with greater fulness or bitterness and sorrow than in South Africa. From the days of Somerset to the days of Bartle Frere the finger of Downing Street had been a curse on the land. Left to Sir Bartle Frere there might have been no retrocession of the Transvaal, no Majuba, none of the weariness of the flesh and the friction between Dutch and English, no Transvaal War, and there might not have been the anxiety and distress of to-day. Both Parties had been equally to blame. He asked the House and all who valued our colonial future to see that Downing Street to-day did not interfere with the wishes of the Colonies. Downing Street used to be a by-word; she was so no longer, and she now asked the House to give its assent to the wishes of the Transvaal Colony. Therefore, it was not only on economic, social, and national grounds, but also on the larger ground of Imperial policy that he respectfully urged the House to reject this Amendment.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said he proposed to follow the example of the Colonial Secretary and lay a few general considerations before the House. We commenced the late war in South Africa and carried it on with the object of enfranchising certain persons, and of enabling Englishmen to live under the franchise and liberty in the Transvaal. Were they doing that at the present moment? They had heard a great deal in the recent debate about the iniquities of dumping. But what were they doing at present in the Transvaal? Dumping down Chinese. They had been told that they ought to listen to the voice of the Colonies —that the unity of the Empire depended on this. Well, Cape Colon) Australia, and New Zealand had protested against the action of His Majesty's Government in this matter, and in the Cape Colony the protest had been so strong that, although the two political parties had been divided by a bitter feud, each at the recent General Election tried to obtain support by declaring against the introduction of Chinese labour into South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman had naturally based his defence on financial grounds; he had said that the Transvaal would assuredly be ruined unless workers could be obtained for the mines. It did not signify how or where they were obtained, but the main object was to secure them. Already some pressure had been used upon the South African natives to induce them to work in the mines, and now it was sought to get forced labour from China. Everybody knew that where slavery was adopted in mines the mine-owners gained. Years ago it was adopted in the Spanish Colonies and the mine-owner gained although the Colonies might not have benefited. Asiatic labour was forbidden in Australia, and in the United States and Canada the feeling 1595 was strongly against it. Yet the mine-owners were seeking to get this labour in the Transvaal mines. They pleaded that they could not get native labour, but was it not likely that they themselves created the difficulty in regard to labour in South Africa, because they wanted power to pay what wages they pleased? They were not particularly scrupulous. They got up a revolution because they said they were helots, and since then they had been endeavouring to obtain permission to employ forced labour. Before the war took place in 1897, because there were so many native boys unable to obtain employment, wages were reduced 30percent., and it was noteworthy that in Mr. Fitzpatrick's "Official Defence of the War" it was declared that the aim of the war was to reduce wages, and that the effect in the Transvaal would be a saving of £650,000 in the annual wage bill. The only object of the mine-owners from the first had been to reduce the wages bill. They tried to cut down the rates before the war, and again as soon as the war was over. That was what the war was for.
§ MR. MALCOLM (Suffolk, Stowmarket)
said that in June, 1899, the Boer Government by proclamation reduced the native wages.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said that in that instance the Boer Government unfortunately yielded to the importunity of the mine-owners. No doubt they thought the mine-owners were supported by public opinion in this country and that therefore it would be wiser to yield that point. The late Colonial Secretary invented a scheme by which he thought he would be able to drive the natives into the mines by pointing out to them the advantages 1596 of polygamy. An extra wife was added as a bait, but he said they would have to pay £2 per annum for her. He himself was happy to say that that scheme did not succeed. The next thing they found was that convicts were employed on the mines, but they were not sent underground; and it was now reserved for this House to oblige the Transvaal mine-owners by providing them with Chinese labour for underground work. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary went out of his way to praise the mine-owners. He would not go out of his way to abuse them; but it was extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman should have praised them when it was well-known their only object was to make millions out of poor men. About 12,000,000 persons must have been induced to gamble in South African mining shares, and the eminent gentlemen whom the right hon. Gentleman delighted to honour were in the fullest sense of the word promoters of mining companies, some of which might pay, but the majority of which would not pay. What they wanted was to humbug fools into buying their shares. No doubt the introduction of Chinese labour would benefit the mine-owners and would also benefit the 12,000,000 gamblers who were induced to gamble in mining shares. He should like to know how many of those gamblers were in the House. It had been decided with regard to public houses that a magistrate who was interested could not vote; and he wondered, if gentlemen who were interested in South African mines were excluded from voting on the Amendment, whether the majority would be in favour of this scheme of slavery in South Africa. He did not think that the scheme would be any 1597 benefit to the Transvaal. The object of persons who kept shops was to get customers, and where there was a large population of working men there would also be a large number of shops. But the Chinese would not be allowed to go to the shops in the Transvaal, and they would eat nothing but rice, which would be imported from their native land. The mine-owners, the friends of the right hon. Gentleman, made no secret as to what their object was. They said their object was political, and that they were afraid of trades unions and men who had votes. They were, therefore, trying to build up a great British possession with a working population of slaves. He said there was no place in the British Empire for such a colony. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the £35,000,000 loan, but he should like to know whether there was any bargain between the late Colonial Secretary and the mine-owners with regard to that loan. It was true the mine-owners undertook to underwrite £10,000,000 of it, but they shirked out of that. He would like to know if there was any bargain with the mine-owners with regard to foreign labour in South Africa. He confessed it looked as if there had been. If this scheme was not slavery, what was slavery? If it was not slavery, it was only not slavery very much in the same sense as the Government was not a protectionist Government. The Chinaman would be taken away from China and would have to spend three years in servitude. If he quitted his location and was found walking about as any free man might, he would be arrested, and if he did not work he would be punished with six months' hard labour. When his children were sixteen years of age, unless 1598 they consented to enter into the same servitude, they would be sent back to China. He asked—Was not that slavery? Then, again, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Chinaman was to be allowed to take as many wives with him as he pleased. What would be the position of those wives and their numerous families? The real truth was that there was no pretence that this was not slavery. Lord Onslow said that the Chinese would be taken from China and put into loose boxes. Was that a proper way to talk about human beings? He was glad to say that such language had shocked a great many bishops, with whom he was not always absolutely in accord. Some of them protested in the name of humanity against the monstrous proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. It was a disgrace to China to agree to this proposal, and it was a disgrace to this country, which fancied itself to be a civilised nation, to try and force it on the Chinese. In 1855, when Peru contracted with the Chinese Government for the export of coolies, a very different Government from the present Government, the Liberal Government of the day, stepped in and protested in the name of humanity against Peru doing what it was proposed that this country should now do. The Colonial Secretary said that it was monstrous to attack the Legislative Assembly of the Transvaal. The right hon. Gentleman said he would not dare to look Africa in the face. He himself did not know what that meant; but the Legislative Council consisted of nominated men. He would as soon think of producing the House of Lords as the best Assembly in this country as of assigning to the Legislative Council that position in South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman went out of his way to insult General Botha, General Delarey, and others 1599 who were honoured and respected not only by the Boers but by many men in this country. Did the right hon. Gentleman think that that was the best way to gain over the Boers to his cause or calm feeling between the two races in South Africa? The right hon. Gentleman abused General Botha because he wrote to him stating that the Boers were against this proposal; and the right hon. Gentleman said of that gallant foe that he did not believe him and that he would not be tricked by such a paltry device. He protested against this iniquity which was contemplated by the Government; and he thought it was very unfair that they had not been given an opportunity of discussing the question except on the debate on the Address. In the debate on the last Amendment one Minister said he would vote for a great fiscal change because the Prime Minister was absent; another Minister said he would vote for it because Russia was at war with Japan. He asked hon. Gentlemen not to have any confidence in such Ministers. Their ability might be great, but it was latent; and their policy might be excellent, but 1600 no one knew what it was. He asked every hon. Gentleman to remember that every vote given against the Amendment would be a vote in favour of slavery and against democracy and freedom and the working men of England. The course of the Government was nearly run. The day of judgment was yawning for them, when they would have to account to the country; and he could assure Ministers that if the Liberals got a majority at the next election, the very first thing they would do would be to reverse this policy, which was a disgrace and a dishonour to the country.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. Malcolm)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.